Diet changes can offer relief to people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Patients can determine which approach works best for them with the guidance of their physicians. Experimenting with dietary changes should be completed using a systematic approach that focuses on one change at a time.
What Is IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the body's ability to digest food properly, leading to discomfort. The problem does not appear to be associated to any particular foods, and many who have the digestive disorder cannot link flare-ups with specific meals. Foods that aggravate IBS one day may not be bothersome the next.
The inconsistency makes determining the right diet difficult. Those who do notice consistent problems after eating certain foods may benefit from removing them from their eating routines. Recognizing the nature of irritable bowel syndrome can help shed light on its relationship with diet.
Causes and Symptoms
The specific causes are unknown, though connections between mental functioning, the nervous system and the digestive tract appear to be disrupted. The condition appears to be physiological in nature. Mental processes and emotional responses have strong influence on the body, including the digestive system.Many may recognize the link between the brain, nervous system and digestion when they think of a time in which strong emotions led to stomach upset. People with IBS appear to have this response consistently, whether the strong emotion is present or not. The big question is whether common diets for irritable bowel syndrome can help.
IBS Diet Suggestions
Conflicting information about diets for this condition can make creating a plan confusing. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorder suggests that avoiding foods that cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, or cramping may help. These foods may aggravate the condition.
Some sources suggest increasing fiber intake, but this can trigger symptoms if high levels of fiber are introduced into a diet all at once. Progressively introducing high fiber foods (ideally soluble fiber found in fruits and vegetables) can help the digestive system adjust. Some foods may aggravate IBS, especially when eaten raw:
- Brussels sprouts
These healthy foods can lead to excess gas when too much is consumed. This does not mean that they should be eliminated, unless there is a direct link to the individual's symptoms and the gas-producing foods.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology notes that individuals with IBS created more antibodies (anti-infection proteins created by the immune system) than those without the condition did. The five foods are:
This does not mean that these foods trigger the condition, nor does it mean that they should be completely eliminated from an eating plan. However, those who notice symptoms after eating these particular foods may want to discuss the problem with a nutritionist or a doctor.
Diets Plans That May Help
Some diets are naturally conducive to good health and many are naturally kind to the digestive tract. An IBS diet can include specific eating plans that are not specifically designed for the health problems. Each option should be discussed with a physician or a nutritionist.
Flat Belly Diet
One of the best choices for people who have gastrointestinal trouble may be Prevention Magazine's Flat Belly Diet. This program addresses gas and bloating, beginning with an intense four-day start-up plan that is specifically designed to reduce bloating and gas. The program is supposed to soothe the GI tract.
See MUFA Diet for an example of a menu plan for this soothing dietary program.
Low Fat Diets
Diets for IBS can include eating plans that cut down on fat intake, specifically saturated and trans-fats. Consider some of the following ideas to keep harmful fats to a minimum.
Keep in mind that many low fat foods can irritate the GI tract.
An excellent approach to identifying foods that trigger IBS is to keep a food diary that includes the following information:
- Stress level before eating
- Foods eaten during the meal
- How long it took to eat
- Stress level after eating
- Whether symptoms of IBS appeared
- How much time passed before symptoms occurred
A printable food diary can be altered to suit this type of tracking. Some people may find that other habits may play a role, including chewing gum and smoking.
Pay Attention to Your Body
While there are no official recommended diet for irritable bowel syndrome, making alterations and keeping track of food intake and habits can offer insight into the triggers that set the symptoms in motion.